Alan Dee: The world is a better place if we slow it down, but can we?

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We’re all staring down the barrel of a new year and supposedly contemplating the changes we’d like to see in ourselves.

Yes, this is the year you’ll finally give up smoking. Of course you’ll cut down on your booze intake, at least for January. Where was that slimming club number again? It’s time to shed that Yuletide lard and starting thinking about summer.

And while you’re making a list, you will absolutely, definitely, make a determined effort to keep in closer touch with everyone on your Christmas card guilt list, you’ll sponsor some poor waif in the Third World with a standing order and you’ll never walk past a Big Issue seller with your eyes fixed to the pavement and your hands firmly in your pockets.

Yeah, right, we can all dream.

But whatever great life changes are being lined up to kick in from January 1, there’s one I can guarantee that nobody will even be contemplating.

How about going computer cold turkey? I’ll go further – wouldn’t it be a good idea to just disconnect yourself from the rest of the world for a while?

I saw the way things were going years ago when I treated my student son and some of his mates to a meal in some soul-sucking theme restaurant.

The conversation struggled because at any one time two of the five would be texting or fielding texts – and this was in the days before smartphones.

I challenged them, from the strong position of being the bloke who was going to be picking up the bill for their burgers, to put their phones in their pockets for the rest of the meal.

Within 15 minutes they were twitchy, anxious, beginning to sweat, and it was clear that the need to be in the loop is just as addictive as a class A drug, even when there’s nothing new to know.

We’re constantly being told that time is the most precious commodity in the pressure-keg 21st century, but we waste so much of it piping music into our ears, viewing videos of piano-playing cats and twittering about what we’ve just bought for our tea.

The daydreamers of yesteryear, the great men who changed the world with a blinding flash of inspiration, wouldn’t have a chance today.

Would Einstein ever have nailed his theories if people had kept sending him links to a video of a dog chasing deer? Could Newton have achieved anything if he’d been constantly chivvied to respond to another 25 Linkedin invitations?

Would we have won the Battle of Britain if the entire scrambled squadron wanted to update their Facebook status before taking to the skies?

I know we can’t turn back the clock, and I know there are benefits that can’t be ignored – having the capability to be connected 24 hours a day is a good thing if you need to be rescued from a foggy mountain-top or just meet up with friends in a crowd – but we’ve got to get a grip.

My first attempt to turn over a new leaf is to chop my online news consumption to no more than two minutes on the hour, every hour. Just like the radio, in fact.

What’s more, I’m only ever going to do any online shopping on a Saturday morning, and if I need to check a fact I will only go googling if I can’t find the answer in one of the many books which sit, increasingly unleafed, in piles around my house.

If I’ve learned anything from a quiet Christmas break, it’s that the world is a better place when you slow it down – but it still turns if you’re not plugged into it around the clock.

But I am, of course, writing this on a computer, so there’s a way to go yet...